The Board of County Commissioners will hold a public workshop to hear input on the county’s Leave No Trace ordinance 10 a.m. ET Wednesday.
The BOCC will consider amendments to the ordinance during its regular monthly meeting the following week, 9 a.m. ET Tuesday, Aug. 28.
At the same meeting, the BOCC is likely to take up a staff recommendation to strike the existing RV ordinance, which established a coastal corridor within which RVs were not allowed on a permanent basis.
If commissioners adhere to staff proposals, the issue would return to provisions in the land development regulations which permit one RV per lot, no matter where in the county.
Meanwhile, the second of two community forums on Leave No Trace, hosted at the St. Joseph Bay Golf Club, will be held 5 p.m. ET tonight.
Following a recommendation from County Administrator Michael Hammond, county commissioners said last month they would consider amending the Leave No Trace ordinance.
Staff, specifically Hammond, who has repeatedly voiced his opposition to provisions in the ordinance, indicated the ordinance was a challenge to enforce and the enforcement provisions in the ordinance needed to be eliminated or amended.
Some provisions of the ordinance, pertaining to beach driving, glass on the beach and those pertaining to beach safety were of value and should be left alone, but enforcement of leaving abandoned property on the beach was “nightmare,” Hammond said.
Since its passage three years ago, the county has never undertaken enforcement in tagging and removing abandoned property.
The county, especially the Tourist Development Council, pressed an education program, with additional signage on the beach and within rental properties and lodging rooms.
Once, last spring, items were tagged but never removed.
The BOCC previously left the discretion to tag-and-remove to the county administrator, a non-elected position.
The BOCC discussion arose after the rise of complaints in July, the height of the summer season, as well as reports in this newspaper.
The current state of the beach is of some debate.
Hammond said the beaches look cleaner than “they did 10 years ago” but local turtle patrol volunteers and many residents have noted a “step back” this summer after two years of progress.
According to Billy Traylor, TDC director of parks, 30 tons of trash were hauled away by his crews, though that total, it was later clarified, includes all other county parks as well.
The vast majority, however, came from the beaches.
And, that, said Dr. Pat Hardman, president of the Coastal Community Association of Gulf County, is an indication there is a problem in need of enforcement.
The first public forum last week provided a host of potential solutions and plenty of expressed frustration due to an ordinance passed by the county but not enforced.
The forum also fully demonstrated the issue is not exclusive to the six miles of beach along St. Joseph Peninsula.
Residents from Cape San Blas, Indian Pass, Port St. Joe, St. Joe Beach and Beacon Hill participated and residents from the entire county are urged to participate.
Nor is LNT entirely a residents’ issue: two owners of rental companies indicated their customers, by a solid majority, not only favored the ordinance being on the books but favored enforcement.
An online survey that received hundreds of responses indicating that a vast majority of residents favored enforcement of Leave No Trace.
If a consensus emerged from the first forum it was a desire for all, county commissioners and residents, to take a step back.
With the summer season nearly over, the goal was to urge county commissioners to stand down from amending LNT immediately.
Instead, there was a consensus to push for a moratorium on any amendments or other actions to LNT and to convene a committee of citizen stakeholders and county representatives to consider how better the ordinance language could be tweaked to bring what commissioners have said they seek: “a common sense” approach.